“Malls, Oil Palm, Orang Utan” in Harmony

World economies should learn a lesson from Indonesia on life spatial planning. As stipulated in Law No. 41/1999 on Forestry and Law No. 26/2007 on Spatial Planning, Indonesia has set a minimum of 30 percent land use as forests. Land use in each region is split into conservation zones and non-forest/cultivation zones. Indonesia adopted a policy that allows the harmonious coexistence of non-forest areas (town centers and residential areas, industry, agriculture and farming areas, etc.) and conservation areas (protected and conserved forests).

Forests are maintained for natural biodiversity (animal, plants and endemic microorganisms), as natural barriers and as nature preserves. Meanwhile, the majority of the remaining 70 percent is designated for all development sectors such as agriculture, plantations, husbandry, urban areas, residential areas and other purposes.

According to 2015 data (Forestry Statistics, 2015), for example, out of 187 million hectares of land in Indonesia, satellite imaging shows 88 million hectares of forests, or 47 percent of total land, which is above the minimum requirement as stipulated by law. More than half of the existing forests are primary forests and the natural habitats of elephants, tigers, orangutans, rhinoceroses, lions, bears, various bird species and other fauna across the archipelago.

Farming and village areas cover 55 million hectares, or 29 percent of total land. Meanwhile, an urban area, which includes residential area, business districts, etc., is 43 million hectare, or 23 percent of total land. Included in the farming and village are as are palm oil plantations, which account for 10.7 million hectares, or 5 percent of the total land of Indonesia.

Urban areas, agriculture/plantation zones and forests coexist and grow on Indonesia land. Forests, as the natural habitat for diverse biological life, must be maintained, because their existence has a unique function that cannot be replaced by the function assumed by agriculture/plantation and urban areas. On the other hand, urban areas, as the center of society’s life activities, also have its own space and functions that cannot be replaced by forests or agriculture/plantation zones.

The same argument applies to agriculture/plantation zones as the producer of food, energy and biomaterials, which also has its own space and function that cannot be replaced by urban area or forests. Residential/urban areas, agriculture/plantation zones and forests each have their own indispensable function within an ecosystem, and they must therefore exist in harmony within their designated spaces.

In other words, “Malls, Oil Palms, and Orangutans” coexist in harmony within their own spaces. This slogan describes the spatial planning policy for a sustainable ecosystem in Indonesia.

The natural biodiversity of flora and fauna is the essence of the ecosystem, linked by the complex food web. For that reason, the conservation of natural biodiversity should not use a sectoral approach, but instead an ecosystem approach. Natural biodiversity is priceless wealth in the ecosystem, which should be conserved through the generations.

Unlike the North American and European countries that cleared virgin forests at the onset of industrial development, Indonesia, with its national philosophy “Unity in Diversity”, has from the start followed the land-use paradigm in utilizing natural forests, i.e., “flora and fauna live side by side in harmony in their own habitats”.

The paradigm’s implementation is stipulated in several different regulations, such as Law No. 41/1999 on Forestry, Law No. 26/2007 on Spatial Planning and Law No. 5/1990 on Conservation of Natural Biodiversity and Ecosystems.

According to the prevailing laws, land in Indonesia is divided into two primary zones, Conservation Zone and Cultivation Zone. The main function of the Conservation Zone is to “house” the conservation of flora and fauna either in situ (within their natural habitats) or ex situ (outside their natural habitats), the latter of which is a combination of natural and human efforts. Meanwhile, the Cultivation Zone is also another means for conserving biodiversity through forestry farming methods.

In situ biodiversity conservation is conducted by keeping the flora and fauna in their natural habitats in protected forests and conservation forests (virgin forests). As each region has a unique ecosystem and natural biodiversity, protected/conservation forests exist in all regions in Indonesia. Protected/conservation forests are not to be converted for other functions. The second method of biodiversity conservation is by maintaining flora and fauna in man-made habitats, similar to but outside their natural habitats. Ex situ facilities take the forms of forest parks, botanical parks or zoos, which exist in many regions. Besides their function to conserve flora and fauna, ex situ facilities are also designed as public recreation areas.

The main function of Cultivation Zones is to facilitate social activities through farms, plantations, production forests, urban areas, residential areas and other designed spaces. The expansion of oil palm plantations takes place within the Cultivation Zone. Unlike the Conservation Zone, land use in the Cultivation Zone is convertible. An area initially allotted for farming can be converted into a non-farming area, production forests can be converted to non-production forests, and oil palm plantations can be converted into non-oil palm plantations, and vice-versa. The Cultivation Zone has not only social and economic functions, but as a whole, also has a third function of biodiversity conservation through cross-generational plant cultivation, animal husbandry farms and fisheries.

Farming plants and animals are among an effective means to conserve biodiversity while at the same time, catering to human needs as has been recorded in the history of civilizations. Agricultural farms, plantations, industrial forest plantations, animal husbandry farms and fisheries, as a whole, are a means to conserve natural biodiversity in human history. (PASPI, Palm Oil agribusiness Strategic Policy Institute).

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